The problems I had during Snowpocalyse reminded me how much I missed my trusty old Subaru. It had its share of dings and hadn’t been fancy to begin with, but it got the job done.
I drive to my eye doctor one day, and there’s construction in the area, which means there’s a detour: if you’re not paying attention, you might not realize until the last second that you can’t go straight and you might suddenly swerve in front of another car and only then realize that you’ve got a red light too and then brake suddenly, at an angle.
This is what the lady in front of me does, and the nice thing about Minis is that they can stop pretty quickly – there’s not much car to stop, after all. But something doesn’t feel right – I remember how my old car’s antilock brakes used to feel, and the Mini has antilock brakes, and this felt … different. Still, it stopped fine and I thanked my lucky stars and considered it a warning to go in and get that airbag light fixed permanently, stopping by my mechanic on the way home and scheduling the work for a few days later. I forget to mention that there’s a funny sound coming from the back of my car now – it only happens sometimes, when I brake. Easy to forget.
The light has been on for so long that when it’s fixed, I find it a bit unnerving, but I start to get used to it and feel a bit more normal driving – a bit less alert, though this may have something to do with the fact that I’m exhausted and being pulled in a million directions: I have a large event planned for that Saturday, which involves me speaking publicly, and a rescue dog that I’ve agreed to foster and need to pick up the following Monday. On Friday evening, I’m driving back from The Child’s sleepover where I delivered the sleeping bag she forgot, on my way to the store to get the last few things I need for the event, that I forgot, and my phone rings about the rescue dog I’m supposed to pick up on Monday so I answer it even though I’m driving, because cell phone use is only only a secondary offense in Washington – you can’t get pulled over for it unless you also happen to be speeding or something, which I’m not.
Or at least, that’s what I thought, right until the police car pulled me over. The officer was nice about it and not even seem upset that I couldn’t find my registration – which I knew was there, I distinctly remember putting it there after the last time I got pulled over. She heads back to her car saying, just hold it out the window if you find it but I’m not worried about it. I shift the car into park.
Or at least, that’s what I thought, right until the moment my car stopped with a jolt, and I discovered I had actually shifted into reverse. I had backed into the police car, and even better, I had done so in such a way that we could not get our bumpers apart.
We have time to figure it out, though. Since she was involved in the accident, she can’t write it up, and we have to wait for another officer to arrive. You would think it would take only a few minutes, what with being around the corner from the police station, but – presumably because there’s no danger whatsoever that I will flee, or perhaps because if I did flee I wouldn’t be too hard to catch, towing a police car with a Mini – it takes a half hour for the other officer to arrive. This officer is mercifully able to figure out how to get the two bumpers apart, and there’s no damage to the police car, and what appears to be only minimal damage to the Mini, which isn’t even noticeable when a piece of plastic trim is clicked back into place.
The big event goes off without a hitch on Saturday, but as I drive home, I realize that sound is still there: the one from the back of my car. I call the mechanic to describe it, and he sounds alarmed. Bring it back in, he says. It’s Monday, and he has an opening on Thursday.
Great, I say. So it’s safe to drive then? The foster dog is an hour’s drive, and I’ve promised to get her that evening.
No, he says. You know what? Bring it in tomorrow.
I cancel the dog pickup, and bring the car in as instructed, only to learn that the brake calipers have seized. The only thing I understand about that statement is this – it will cost $800+ to fix and, no, the car isn’t safe to drive without it.
The mechanic is scratching his head – this car does not have that many miles on it, he says. This should not have happened.
In the past, I have told him my plan for this car: drive it a few years and turn then hand it down to The Child. The mechanic always joked with me, Why? Don’t you love her?
The repairs have have pretty much eaten up the money I’d hoped to use for vacation, but I hold on to hope we might still be able to take our planned summer trip to Alaska, and I don’t let go of it until the next morning, when we start to head out of the house and the garage door stops opening just an inch too low to get a Mini out.
I can take a hint, especially when the universe delivers it with sledgehammer subtlety: Underwater or not, it’s time to replace the car.